Archive for March, 2017

Rice Named CVSR 2016 Volunteer of Year

March 31, 2017

Alan Rice has been named the 2016 Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad volunteer of the year.

Rice, who works on CVSR trains as a conductor and brakeman joined the CVSR in June 2009.

He has contributed more than 7,800 hours including 1,494.5 last year.

An active member of the CVSR Volunteer Association, he is the treasurer and a member of the communications and education committees.

Rice helped revise the volunteer policies and procedures manual and has presented at continuing education events for volunteers.

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New Bridge Being Eyed At Bort Road

March 31, 2017

The old one-lane Bort Road bridge over the CSX tracks near North East, Pennsylvania, may be replaced with a more modern span.

Officials in North East Township are pushing state officials to approve funding for a longer bridge that would also cross over the Norfolk Southern tracks.

They have asked the state to add a new Bort Road bridge to the region’s Transportation Improvement Program, which would make it a priority for state transportation funding.

The proposed Bort Road bridge would be east of the existing structure on land now owned by grape farmer Nick Mobilia.

He has agreed to trade two acres of his Concord vineyard to the township for the land on which the bridge now sits.

Planners say the low elevation of the NS tracks, which cross Bort Road at grade, make it impractical to locate the new bridge on the footprint of the current bridge.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has completed a study of a new bridge that estimated a replacement would cost $7 million.

Gus Neff, chairman of the North East Township Board of Supervisors, said all that needed now is funding.

The PennDOT study found that about 400 vehicles a day cross the Bort Road bridge. The wood deck is deteriorating and is limited to vehicles weighing 8 tons or less.

Township officials say the bridge is important for farmers and that a new bridge could be a second route over the railroad tracks for emergency vehicles.

Building a new bridge is not the only option, the PennDOT study found.

Two other options involve razing the bridge and either routing traffic routed to an enhanced grade crossing of both railroads at Remington Road or a building a bridge carrying Remington Road the tracks.

The War of Words Continues in Site Selection Process for New Amtrak Station in Buffalo

March 31, 2017

A decision on a site for a new Amtrak station in Buffalo, New York, is not expected until late April, but it appears that a site in the Canalside neighborhood has been ruled out.

The Canalside site was not included in the list of sites that were studied by a consulting firm.

Some city officials say that Canalside was dropped from active consideration because inter-city buses could not be adequately accommodated there.

In the meantime, a New York congressman who has strongly supported renovating the former Central Terminal has attacked the consultant’s report for what he termed grossly inflated costs for that site.

Rep. Brian Higgins took issue with findings that returning passenger rail service to Central Terminal would cost between $68 million to $149 million, depending on the level of service provided and whether the facility would also serve local and inter-city buses.

Higgins said the costs could be cut by $6 million by giving up unnecessary improvements to the terminal concourse. Another $1.4 million could be saved by eliminating some elevators.

Higgins contends that renovating Central Terminal could be eligible for nearly $11.8 million in tax credits under state and federal programs for the renovation of historic properties.

Saying some members of the 17-member station selection committee don’t like the neighborhood around Central Terminal, Higgins accused them of trying to price Central Terminal out of contention.

At least one station site selection committee member has expressed doubt that Central Terminal is an appropriate site for a modern, intermodal transportation center.

Some committee members, who would not agreed to be named, believe Higgins is trying to hijack the station selection process.

Eugene Berardi Jr., president of Adirondack Trailways, said it would be difficult for buses to serve Central Terminal because of the low underpasses on the streets near the station.

He also said bus passengers want to be dropped off downtown to access Metro Rail and other public transportation.

Supporters of a downtown location say that an intermodal facility would be eligible for Federal Transit Administration funds as well as Federal Railroad Administration funding.

The consultant’s report lists three possible downtown sites for the new station:

  •  The site of the existing Amtrak station on Exchange Street
  •  A site just west of the existing station, nearer to Washington Street
  •  A site at Washington Street just south of the I-190

Support for Central Terminal has come from another source. Twenty-five architects have signed  a letter backing the Central Terminal as the site for a new Buffalo train station.

“This is about a lot more than where to put a train platform,” said Robert Stark, president of the American Institute of Architects, New York State, and a partner with CJS Architects in Larkinville, New York.

Chao Says Infrastructure Plan Will Cut Back Regulations, House Committee Approves Passenger Rail Legislation

March 31, 2017

It’s not the money it’s the red tape. Or so Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao wants everyone to believe is the reason why more isn’t being done to rebuild America’s infrastructure.

Speaking during an open house to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Department of Transportation, Chao said the Trump Administration’s infrastructure proposal that has yet to be delivered to Congress will include proposals to eliminate regulations.

“Investors say there is ample capital available, waiting to invest in infrastructure projects,” Chao said.” So the problem is not money. It’s the delays caused by government permitting processes that hold up projects for years, even decades, making them risky investments.”

Chao said the Trump infrastructure plan “will include common-sense regulatory, administrative, organizational and policy changes that will encourage investment and speed project delivery.”

Although she did not provide details, that infrastructure proposal will include a “a strategic, targeted program of investment valued at $1 trillion over 10 years,” Chao said.

She said the proposal will cover more than transportation infrastructure. It will also include energy, water and potentially broadband and veterans hospitals.

Public-private partnerships will be a focal point of the plan as a way to avoid “saddling future generations with massive debt.”

In an unrelated development, the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure this week approved a bill involving passenger rail.

The committee reported out H.R. 1346, which repeals a rule titled “Metropolitan Planning Organization Coordination and Planning Area Reform.”

In a statement, the committee said the rule exceeds what is required in law, is contrary to congressional intent, and increases burdens on MPOs and states.

The committee said H.R. 1346 maintains MPO and state flexibility in planning and making transportation investments.

Also approved was H.R. 1093, which mandates the Federal Railroad Administration to notify Congress about any initiation and results of passenger and commuter rail comprehensive safety assessments.

NS Executive Train Passes Through NE Ohio

March 29, 2017

This past Tuesday the Norfolk Southern office car special came through northeast Ohio on its way to the Masters Tournament in Augusta, Georgia. The railfan community was out in force to document this move.

The top photograph was made in Alliance. The weather wasn’t great so I did mine in black and white. Next is the special at Canton in a photograph made by Michael Punzalan.

The final photograph was made at Lucas by Matt Arnold.

Article by Todd Dillon

NS VP Calls for Infrastructure Invesment

March 29, 2017

A Norfolk Southern vice president recently called for making transportation infrastructure investment a priority during a conference in Florida.

Darrell Wilson, NS vice president of government relations, said the federal government should make infrastructure its top priority followed by some form of deregulation and tax reform.

He spoke to the Jaxport Logistics & Intermodal conference in Jacksonville, Florida.

Wilson spoke during a panel session. His panel expressed skepticism about the Trump administration’s calls for trade protectionism, but said that U.S. businesses could benefit from a renegotiation of the North America Free Trade Agreement.

Annual McKay Day Berea Outing Set for April 1

March 28, 2017

The Akron Railroad Club’s 13th annual Dave McKay Day outing in Berea will held on Saturday, April 1.

Come early and stay late while watching the action on the busy CSX and Norfolk Southern mainlines. Berea is one of Ohio’s premier railroad hot spots and features a wide variety of rail action.

This year we will be able to see if we can detect any changes in CSX operations as a result of its new CEO, E. Hunter Harrison, implementing his scheduled precision railroading operating philosophy.

While at Illinois Central, Canadian National and Canadian Pacific, Harrison’s railroads became known for longer and less frequent trains. You might see an intermodal train with a block of boxcars or who knows what attached to it.

Of late NS has accounted for about 60 percent of the rail traffic at Berea with CSX making up the other 40 percent.

Although Amtrak passes through Berea four times a day, those trains operate in the pre-dawn hours unless one or more of them are excessively late.

Our best shot to see Amtrak is the eastbound Lake Shore Limited, which is scheduled into Cleveland at 5:35 a.m., which should put it through Berea shortly after 5 a.m. Yes, that is early.

The Wheeling & Lake Erie has trackage rights on CSX between Wellington and Cleveland, although its trains to the Cleveland steel mills operate on an as-needed basis.

Although most trains feature routine motive power assignments, part of the challenge of spending a day in Berea involves the search for something out of the ordinary.

On NS it could be a heritage unit or one of the former Indiana Rail Road locomotives that NS acquired that are still running around in their original red and white INDR livery.

We’ve seen a few NS heritage units trailing during the McKay Day, but have yet to have one leading. We are more than due for that bad luck to change.

Foreign power can lead trains on either railroad, so we might catch units of BNSF, Union Pacific and, if we are really lucky, Kansas City Southern.

CP has a run-through train that uses CSX tracks between Chicago and Buffalo, New York, and we’ve often seen that train during our time in Berea. It almost always has CP motive power.

The two railroads can be expected to offer an array of manifest freights, intermodal trains, auto racks consists, and unit trains of coal, ethanol, grain and crude oil.

As late afternoon begins to transition to early evening, those still on hand will go to the Berea Union Depot Taverne for dinner and more training watching from out table along the windows that are adjacent to the CSX tracks.

The McKay Day will be held rain, shine or snow. We’ve seen just about every form of weather you can imagine over the years. It might be cold and you’ll need your winter coat or it might be short-sleeves shirt weather.

The event is named for the late Dave McKay, who served as ARRC president between 1993 and 2004. He died in late December 2004 and and plaque in his memory lies in the ground at Berea.

Forcing Film Shooters into the Digital World

March 27, 2017

Organizations have ways of forcing people to do something they might not wish to do otherwise.

It used to be that airlines issued paper tickets to passengers. They still do, but for a fee.

The reason why this changed is obvious. The airlines save money by shifting the cost of paper and printing onto their customers.

In theory customers get the “convenience” of being able to print their tickets at home. That saves them a trip to the airport or a travel agent.

To many people, printing your own tickets is no big deal. The cost of the paper and ink for printing airline tickets – technically called boarding passes – is minuscule.

Most people who travel by air already have computers and printers at home.

Some don’t even print their boarding passes. They show a code on their smart phone sent to them electronically. No paper is involved at any step of the process.

But not everyone who still makes photographic images on film has the equipment needed to digitize their work.

Those photographers might be out of luck if they wish to enter the 2017 Trains magazine photo contest.

Tucked into the rules is this change: “We will no longer be accepting submissions by mail.”

No explanation for that rule change was provided, but it likely wasn’t a financial move.

The photographer paid all costs associated with sending slides or printed images by mail.

More than likely this rule change was for the convenience of the staff. All entries can now be kept in one location and viewed in the same manner.

There is no more having to toggle between digital entries and slides and prints.

It also might save some staff time. Winning entries submitted as slides or prints no longer need to be digitized.

But what is convenient for the magazine staff is not so convenient for certain photographs. If they lack the equipment to digitize the images they wish to submit to the contest, they will have to buy the equipment or pay to have their images digitized.

Perhaps some have a friend who has a scanner who might be willing to do it for a beer.

The rule change also is likely a reflection of the reality that few entries are still being submitted the old fashioned way.

There remains a hard core of photographers who use film to make railroad images.

Some of them have scanning equipment to digitize their images, but most of the film guys I know do not have equipment to scan slides and negatives.

Most of them strike me as unwilling to learn how to do it. I can understand why.

Like cameras, film scanners come in all shapes, sizes and price points.

Some equipment is inexpensive, but the quality of the finished product might not be satisfactory.

B&H Photo offers a guide to scanning equipment at https://www.bhphotovideo.com/explora/photography/buying-guide/film-scanners

If you know little to nothing about digital images, reading that guide might be bewildering. You soon learn you need to know about things that film photographers do not need to know unless they are in the publication business.

I can’t say what percentage of photographers has equipment capable of scanning film images into a digital format.

Most of the railroad images I’ve see posted online were made with a digital camera.

There are not as many pre-digital images in cyberspace as there could be. Aside from its cost, digitizing equipment takes time to learn to use.

Yet the day is coming when having scanning equipment will be a “must have” if you wish to share your pre-digital photographs with others.

Slide shows remain a staple of local railroad clubs, but some events, e.g., Summerail, no longer allow programs in which images are projected directly from film.

I have a sizable collection of slides and I do not foresee projecting them again with a slide projector.

Local railroad clubs are losing members and the number of opportunities to project slides the old fashioned way is dwindling even as slide film is making a modest comeback.

As I noted in a previous column, slide film has a future, but it is tied into the digital world, particularly if you want to share your images with a circle that extends beyond your closest friends who are willing to get together in a room for a slide showing.

Chessie Loco Going to Lake Shore Museum

March 27, 2017

The Lake Shore Railway Museum has acknowledged that it will be receiving a locomotive painted at a CSX shop in the Chessie System colors.

Former Chesapeake & Ohio No. 8272 received the treatment in Huntington, West Virginia, so that is now resembles the appearance it had when the B30-7 was delivered by GE Transportation  in 1980

The Lake Shore museum in North East, Pennsylvania, specializes in collecting retired locomotives that were built at the nearby GE assembly plant in Erie.

No. 8272 will be the eighth locomotive to join that collection.

In a news release, the Lake Shore Railway Historical Society, which operates the museum, said  the locomotive is being donated by CSX to the museum. It was retired by CSX in 2009 as No. 5554.

The museum said that GE and the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum assisted in the restoration of No. 8272 by contributing historic paint records, logo/lettering information and paint chips.

The museum said that plans to move No. 8272 to the museum are still being worked out.

Hayes to Present at Hoosier Traction Meet

March 27, 2017

Former Akron Railroad Club member Blaine Hayes will be among the presenters at the 34th annual Hoosier Traction Meet on Sept. 8-9 in Indianapolis.

Hayes will present a program titled Cleveland Trackless Trolleys.

The event is being held at the Clarion Hotel, 2930 Waterfront Parkway West Drive.

This year’s event will feature free exhibits that will be open on Friday from noon to 10 p.m. and on Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Exhibitors will on display items illustrating the principles and nature of mass transportation systems: photos, books, miniature models, timetables and other collectibles.

The presentations will be given in a 150-seat auditorium with audio-visual presentations of live narration and photographs.

Sessions are expected to run from an hour to an hour and a half with 20 to 30 minute breaks between sessions.

Tickets for the presentations are $40 at the door or $19.50 if purchased before August 25.

Presenters include: Ed Conrad, Union Traction – Union Electric interurban; Andy Maginnis. The Philadelphia (Transit) Story; George Gula, Two Keystone Interurbans: Wilkes-Barre and Hazleton and the Northern Electric; Paul Grether, The Return of Cincinnati Streetcars; Richard Aaron, Toronto; Ken Schramm, Michigan’s Detroit United Railway Operations; Tom McNamara, Cincinnati Transit in Transition from Streetcars to Trackless; Charles Bogart, Current Transit Industry News; Bob Olson, Not Just Your Average Garden Variety

Backyard Electric Railroad; Leo Sullivan, Trolley Freight and Express in New England.